Health and Safety Guide No. 77
HEALTH AND SAFETY
This is a companion volume to
Environmental Health Criteria 147: Propachlor
Published by the World Health Organization for the International
Programme on Chemical Safety (a collaborative programme of the United
Nations Environment Programme, the International Labour Organisation,
and the World Health Organization)
WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION, GENEVA 1992
This report contains the collective views of an international group of
experts and does not necessarily represent the decisions or the stated
policy of the United Nations Environment Programme, the International
Labour Organisation, or the World Health Organization
WHO Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
Propachlor : health and safety guide.
(Health and safety guide ; no, 77)
1.Acetanilides - standards 2.Acetanilides - toxicity
3.Environmental exposure 4.Herbicides - standards
5.Herbicides - toxicity I.Sories
ISBN 92 4 151077 3 (NLM Classification: WA 240)
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1. PRODUCT IDENTITY AND USES...........................
1.2 Physical and chemical properties.............
1.3 Analytical methods...........................
1.4 Production and uses..........................
2. SUMMARY AND EVALUATION..............................
2.1 Environmental transport, distribution, and
2.2 Environmental levels and human exposure......
2.3 Kinetics and metabolism......................
2.4 Effects on experimental animals and in vitro
2.5 Effects on human begins......................
2.6 Effects on organisms in the environment......
3. CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS.....................
4. HUMAN HEALTH HAZARDS, PREVENTION
AND PROTECTION, EMERGENCY ACTION....................
4.1 Human health hazards, prevention and
protection, first aid........................
4.1.1 Advice to physicians...................
4.1.2 Health surveillance advice.............
4.1.3 Personal hygiene.......................
4.2 Explosion and fire hazards...................
4.5 Spillage and disposal........................
5. HAZARDS FOR THE ENVIRONMENT AND THEIR
6. CURRENT REGULATIONS, GUIDELINES, AND
6.1 Previous evaluations by international bodies.
6.2 Exposure limit values........................
6.3 Specific restrictions........................
6.4 Labelling packaging, and transport...........
6.5 Waste disposal...............................
The Environmental Health Criteria (EHC) documents produced by the
International Programme on Chemical Safety include an assessment of the
effects on the environment and on human health of exposure to a
chemical or combination of chemicals, or physical or biological agents.
They also provide guidelines for setting exposure limits.
The purpose of a Health and Safety Guide is to facilitate the
application of these guidelines in national chemical safety programmes.
The first three sections of a Health and Safety Guide highlight the
relevant technical information in the corresponding EHC. Section 4
includes advice on preventive and protective measures and emergency
action; health workers should be thoroughly familiar with the medical
information to ensure that they can act efficiently in an emergency.
The section on regulatory information has been extracted from the legal
file of the International Register of Potentially Toxic Chemicals
(IRPTC) and from other United Nations sources.
The target readership includes occupational health services, those in
ministries, governmental agencies, industry, and trade unions who are
involved in the safe use of chemicals and the avoidance of
environmental health hazards, and those wanting more information on
this topic. An attempt has been made to use only terms that will be
fimillar to the intended user. However, sections 1 and 2 inevitably
contain some technical terms. A bibliography has been included for
readers who require further background information.
Revision of the information in this Guide will take place in due
course, and the eventual aim is to use standardized terminology.
Comments on any difficulties encountered in using the Guide would be
very helpful and should be addressed to:
International Programme on Chemical Safety
World Health Organization
1211 Geneva 27
THE INFORMATION IN THIS GUIDE
SHOULD BE CONSIDERED AS A
STARTING POINT TO A COMPREHENSIVE
HEALTH AND SAFETY PROGRAMME
1. PRODUCT IDENTITY AND USES
Common name: Propachlor
Molecular formula: C11H14CINO
Common trade name: Ramrod
Common synonyms: acylide; bexton
CAS chemical name 2-chloro- N(1-methylethyl)- N-phenyl
IUPAC name: 2,chloro-N-isopropylacetamide (formerly
CAS registry 1918-16-7
RTECS registry AE 1575000
Technical propachlor contains 93 % active ingredient (a.i.); it is
formulated as a wettable powder (650 g a.i./kg), granules (200 g
a.i./kg), or a flowable liquid concentrate.
1.2 Physical and chemical properties
Propachlor is non-flammable and stable to UV radiation.
The physical properties of propachlor are given in Table 1.
Table 1. Physical properties
Physical state solid
Relative molecular mass 211.7
Melting point (°C) 67.76
Decomposes (°C) 170
Vapour pressure (25 °C) 30.6 mPa
Solubility in water(20 °C) 70 mg/litre
Solubility in organic solvents: readily soluble in most organic
solvents, except aliphatic
in acetone 30.9%
in benzene 50%
in tetrachloromethane 14.8%
in chloroform 37.6%
in ethanol 29%
in heptane 1.1%
in toluene 25.5%
in xylene 19.3%
Log Pow 1.62-2.30
1.3 Analytical methods
Gas chromatography with electron-capture detection is the method of
choice for the determination of propachlor.
1.4 Production and uses
Propachlor is a pre-emergence herbicide, effective against annual
grasses and certain broad-leaved weeds. It is used on a variety of
food plants, including onions, field corn, hybrid seed, silage corn,
sweet corn, grain sorghum, green peas, soybeans, flax, pumpkin, and
2. SUMMARY AND EVALUATION
2.1 Environmental transport, distribution, and transformation
Propachlor is not known to be photodegradable on soil surfaces.
Volatilization of the compound occurs under windy conditions when the
soil surface is still moist.
The adsorption of the compound on soil particles and organic matter is
only moderate with a potential for the compound to leach through the
soil profile and into ground water. However, all studies have shown
that this potential is unlikely to be realised in practice. Very high
rainfall is required to move residues 30 cm down the soil profile.
Most authors have reported that most of the residues occur within the
upper 4 cm of soil. The characteristics of the soil greatly influence
the movement of the compound; most leaching occurs in sandy soil
containing little organic matter.
The run-off of propachlor has been studied in both the laboratory and
field. The presence of organic matter in the soil reduced run-off of
the applied herbicide from 7 to 1 % in one study. Incorporation of
propachlor into the soil also reduced loss through run-off (from 3 to
0. 8 % in one study).
By far the most significant factor in reducing propachlor levels in
soil and water is its degradation by microorganisms. Both bacteria and
fungi have been shown to be involved in the breakdown of the compound.
Few bacteria appear to be able to use propachlor as the sole carbon
source. Bacteria capable of utilising soil metabolites of propachlor
have also been isolated.
The predominant metabolites formed in soil are water-soluble oxanilic
and sulfonic acids. A large number of other metabolites can be formed,
but these represent a small proportion of the total.
Propachlor disappears rapidly from the soil with a reported half-life
of up to 3 weeks. Almost complete degradation within less than 6
months has been reported in most studies. Environmental conditions
affect the rate of degradation which is favoured by high temperature
and soil moisture content. Studies in which longer persistence of
propachlor in the soil was reported were conducted under conditions of
low temperature or dry soil. Adequate nutrient levels in tht soil are
also necessary for degradation.
The conjugated N-isopropylaniline metabolite is much more persistent
than the parent compound. Residues of this metabolite have been found
up to 2 years after application of propachlor, when applied
experimentally at higher rates than would normally be used in
Under normal conditions of use, propachlor is not expected to leach
through the soil to ground water and will not persist in the soil.
Exceptional conditions of low temperature or dryness will lead to
greater persistence of propachlor and its metabolites.
Under normal conditions, propachlor does not photodegrade significantly
in water. However, in the presence of photosensitizers,
photodegradation may take place. Propachlor is hydrologically stable.
Volatilization from water is unlikely, because of the high water
solubility and low vapour pressure of the compound.
As in soil, the major route of loss of propachlor from water is biotic
degradation. The rate of loss of propachlor from water is, therefore,
dependent on the microbial population. A study on water with few
bacteria present showed a half-life of about 5 months. In another
study, cleavage of the ring did not occur within 6 weeks. Laboratory
model ecosystem studies showed almost complete de@,radation of
propachlor within 33 days.
In several studies on different plant species, propachlor was rapidly
metabolized in both intact plants and excised plant tissues. The
metabolic pathways were similar in all plants studied, at least for the
first 6-24 h, in producing water-soluble metibolites. No metabolic
breakdown of the N-isopropylaniline moiety was observed. Very little
(< 1 % in one study) of the metabolites was found in the fruit of the
plants; most was in the roots and foliage. The major metabolites
produced in plants are identical with those produced in soil. Uptake
of these metabolites from soil is known to take place and, in some
studies, it is uncertain whether measured metabolites come from the
plant or the soil.
Although the octanol/water partition coefficient suggests a moderate
potential for bioaccumulation, studies leave shown that propachlor
neither bioconcentrates nor biomagnifies in organisms.
2.2 Environmental levels and human exposure
Measurements of air concentrations of propachlor during application are
few and have been inadequately measured and reported.
Concentrations in surface and ground water in the USA were consistently
low with maxima at 10 µg/litre in surface and 0.12 µg/litre in ground
water. The highest water concentration recorded in a run-off study was
Propachlor residues in food are usually below the detection limit of
the analytical method (0.005 mg/kg). Experimental studies have
identified some residues in tomatoes, peppers, onions, and cabbage at
levels of the order of 0.05 mg/kg.
Measurements of propachlor levels in the air of the working zone of
tractor drivers applying the compound ranged between 0.1 and 3.7 mg/m3.
2.3 Kinetics and metabolism
Propachlor can be absorbed in mammals through the respiratory and
gastrointestinal tracts as well as through the skin. It does not
accumulate in the body. After 48 h, it is not detectable in the
Most animal species (rat, pig, chicken) metabolized propachlor through
the mercapturic acid pathway (MAP). Cysteine conjugates are formed by
glutathione conijugation and this conjugate has been proposed as an
intermediate in the metabolic formation of mercapturic acid
conjugation. Bacterial C-S lyase participates in the further
metabolism of the cysteine conjugate of propachlor and in the formation
of the final methylsulfonyl-containing metabolites, which are mainly
excreted in the urine (68% of the dose of propachlor), and insoluble
residues eliminated in the faeces (19 %). The propachlor C-S lyase is
not active in germ-free rats.
Studies have shown some differences in metabolism between the rat and
the pig. The bile is the major route of excretion of MAP metabolites
in the rat, but it is has been proved that an extrabiliary route of
metabolism exists in the pig.
Metabolic studies on calves have shown that they may be unable to form
mercapturic acids from glutathione conjugates, which may make them more
susceptible to poisoning.
2.4 Effects on experimental animals and in vitro test systems
The acute oral toxicity of propachlor is only slight (LD50s in the rat
range from 950 to 2176 mg/kg body weight). Signs of acute intoxication
are predominantly central nervous system effects (excitement,
convulsion followed by depression). Acute inhalition toxicity in
rodents is low (LC50 1.0 mg/litre). However, propachlor causes severe
irritation of both eyes and skin.
Propachlor has been tested in short- and long-term studies on rats,
mice, and dogs. The liver and kidneys are the target organs. In a 3-
month dietary exposure study on dogs, the no-observed-adverse-effect
level (NOAEL) was 45 mg/kg body weight. In a one-year study on dogs,
the NOAEL was 250 mg/kg diet (9 mg/kg body weight), while, in a 24-
month dietary study on rats, the no-observed-effect level (NOEL) was 50
mg/kg (2.6 mg/kg body weight). In mice, the NOEL in an 18-nionth
dietary study was 10 mg/kg (1.6 mg/kg body weight).
Propachlor was found not to be carcinogenic in either mice or rats.
A negative mutagenic response was obtained with propachlor in most of
the mammalian test systems, with positive results in a few assays.
Evidence from available experimental data on its mutagenic potential is
When administered in a single dose (675 mg/kg) to rats and mice, there
was positive evivdence for the embryotoxicity of propachlor.
Embryotoxic effects were also observed in repeated dose regimens (35.7-
270 mg/kg). However, in another rat study using a dose range of 20-200
mg/kg no embryotoxicity was observed.
Propachlor WP, in doses of 12 and 60 mg/kg body weight, resulted in a
decrease in protein content and an increase in ATP and 5-nucleotidase
activity in a homogenate of rat testes, and degenerative changes in the
testes. However, in a two-generation reproduction study, there was no
definite evidence of adverse effects.
2.5 Effects on human beings
Few cases of contact and allergic dermatitis have been reported in
farmers and production workers exposed to propachlor (Ramrod and
Satecid). When patch tests were carried out, some of them showed a
positive patch-test reaction, or an irritation reaction, or mono- or
There are no reports of symptoms or diseases among either
occupationally exposed workers or the general population, other than a
few reports of its effects on the skin of occupationally exposed
2.6 Effects on organisms in the environment
Nitrifying bacteria were the group of soil microorganisms most
sensitive to inhibitory effects of propachlor. Their numbers were
reduced by a factor of 3-4 after application of propachlor at 8-10
kg/ha. Cellulose-decomposing bacteria were the least sensitive. High
adsorption on clay particles in soil, and high temperature, both
reduced the inhibitory effects.
A 96-h EC50 for growth of 0.02 mg/litre and a no-observed-effect
concentration (NOEC) of 0.01 mg/litre have been reported for the alga
Selenastrum capricornutum. A second study using a formulation and
conducted over 72 h suggested substantially less hazard for the same
LC50s of 7.8 and 6.9 mg/litre have been reported for the water flea
(Daphnia magna) with an NOEC of < 5.6 mg/litre. The NOEC for
reproduction was 0.097 mg/litre. LC50s for two species of midge
larvae of 0.79 and 1.8 mg/litre have been reported.
The 96-h LC50 reported for the rainbow trout is 0.1 mg/litre, and the
NOEC for a 21-day study was 0.019 mg/litre.
Propachlor is moderately to highly toxic for aquatic organisms. It is
not toxic for earthworms at exposure concentrations expected in the
soil, the NOEC being 100 mg/kg soil. The contact LD50 for honey bees,
at 311 µg/bee, shows that propachlor will not pose a hazard for these
insects. Some beneficial parasitic insects have been reported to be
adversely affected by propachlor in laboratory and field studies.
Propachlor is more toxic for birds when administered via the stomach
than when fed in the diet. Acute LD50s ranged between 137 and
735 mg/kg body weight for different bird species. LC50s from dietary
exposure in birds exceeded 5620 mg/kg diet.
Propachlor will not pose a hazard for birds in the field, even when in
3. CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
- Under normal conditions of use, the general population is not
likely to be exposed to propachlor.
- Those occupationally exposed to propachlor should take adequate
safety and hygienic precautions in order to protect the skin,
eyes, and respiratory tract.
- Propachlor is rapidly degraded in the environment under most
conditions. It will persist longer in cold, dry environments.
The conjugated N-isopropylaniline metabolite persists longer than
the parent compound. Propachlor does not bioconcentrate or
- Propachlor is highly toxic for some aquatic organisms. Exposure
of aquatic organisms from normal usage will be low with maximum
expected concentrations several orders of magnitude lower than
no-observed-effect concentrations. Direct containination of
water courses will kill aquatic organisms and should be avoided.
Propachlor poses a low hazard for birds, earthworms, and honey
- Workers should be educated about the hazards of propachlor and
systematically trained in safe practices and personal hygiene and
to use protective equipment.
- Results of present animal studies about mutagenicity are
inconclusive and more research is needed.
- Studies should be performed on laboratory animals to determine
the potential neurotoxic effects of propachlor.
- Only validated analytical methods for residues of propachlor
should be used.
- Epidemiological studies on occupationally exposed workers are
- There is a need to develop methods of biological monitoring for
evaluating human exposure to propachlor.
- Research is needed to clarify the exposure of workers employed in
the production and agricultural use of propachlor. The study
should also include examination of health effects at the measured
4. HUMAN HEALTH HAZARDS, PREVENTION
AND PROTECTION, EMERGENCY ACTION
4.1 Human health hazards, prevention and protection, first aid
Propachlor is a herbicide that is only slightly hazardous with normal
handling (oral LD50 for the rat approximately 1500 mg/kg) (WHO, 1990).
No cases of poisoning have been reported in the general population or
through occupational exposure. However, propachlor is a skin irritant
and may cause allergic skin reactions. It may cause severe eye
irritation and corneal damage.
The human health hazards associated with certain types of exposure to
propachlor, together with preventive and protective measures and first
aid recommendations, are listed in Table 2.
4.1.1 Advice to physicians
Poisoning by propachlor is unlikely, unless there has been gross
(negligent) exposure or deliberate ingestion.
No specific antidote is known. Treat symptomatically. In case of
ingestion, gastric lavage may be indicated, at the discretion of the
doctor. However, the main hazard with liquid formulations is
aspiration of the solvent into the lungs, resulting in chemical
pneumonitis. See also Table 2.
4.1.2 Health surveillance advice
No special methods required.
4.1.3 Personal hygiene
Those engaged in the production, formulation, and transportation and
propachlor, and users, should be aware of the effects and hazards of
the chemical. They should be systematically educated and trained in
the practice of safety rules, good housekeeping, and personal hygiene,
i.e., cleanliness, washing, and the use of their personal protection
Table 2. Human health hazards, prevention and protection, first aid
HAZARDS/SYMPTOMS PREVENTION AND PROTECTION FIRST AID
SKIN: Irritating to the Use proper application technique, Remove contaminated clothing; wash skin
skin; may sensitize and proper skin protection: clean, with soap and water; launder contaminated
rubber, PVC, or neoprene gloves clothing before reuse
EYES: Irritating to eyes; Wear face-shield or goggles Flush immediately with clean water for at
may cause corneal damage least 15 minutes; refer for medical attention
INHALATION: dust and mist are Avoid inhalation of fine dust and Remove to fresh air
irritant to respiratory system mist, use respiratory protection
INGESTION: Unlikely to be a Do not eat, drink, or smoke
significant occupational hazard during working hours; wash hands
before eating, drinking, or
Accidental or deliberate Obtain medical attention immediately
ingestion could lead to
poisoning; the main hazard of
ingested liquid formulations
is aspiration into the lungs
4.2 Explosion and fire hazards
Most propachlor formulations do not burn. However, some solvents in
liquid formulations are highly flammable. Use dry powder, carbon
dioxide, alcohol-resistant foam, sand, or earth for dealing with fires.
DO NOT use water. Cool nearby drums with water spray. Decomposition
occurs at 170 °C giving rise to toxic fumes.
If propachlor is involved in a major fire, or in a fire involving other
products, advise the fire service that protective clothing and
breathing apparatus should be worn. The use of water should be
confined to the cooling of unaffected stock, thus avoiding the
accumulation of polluted run-off from the site.
Store technical material and formulations away from heat, under lock
and key, and out of reach of children, animals and unathorized
personel. Store in an area designated for herbicide storage,
preferably without drains.
Store away from food and animal feed.
Before dispatch, ensure that the containers are sound and that labels
are securely fixed and undamaged. Comply with local transport
Do not transport in compartments that contain food or animal feed.
4.5 Spillage and disposal
Prevent exposure by the use of appropriate protective clothing and
masks. Keep spectators away from any spillage.
Empty any product remaining in damaged or leaking containers into a
clean empty drum, and label.
Absorb spillage with lime, damp sawdust, sand, or earth and dispose of
safely (see below). If spillage is large, contain it by building a
barrier of earth or sandbags. Avoid contamination of drains and
Spills of powders should be cleaned up using a dustless method (e.g.,
by a vacuum cleaner suitable for use with toxic dusts). Alternatively,
mix with damp sawdust and place in separate container for subsequent
disposal. Dry brushing should not be carried out, as this creates dust
Surplus product, spilled material, contaminated absorbents, containers,
etc., should be burned in a high-temperature incinerator (at least 800
°C) with effluent gas scrubbing, designed for pesticide disposal. When
no incinerator is available, bury in an approved dump or in an area
where there is no risk of contamination of surface water. Comply with
any local legislation applying to waste disposal.
5. HAZARDS FOR THE ENVIRONMENT AND
Propachlor is not hazardous for terrestrial fauna, but is highly toxic
for some aquatic organisms.
Do not spray propachlor over bodies of water. Do not contaminate
ponds, waterways, or ditches with the product or used containers.
Avoid spray drifting beyond areas to be treated.
6. SUMMARY OF CHEMICAL SAFETY
The information given in this section has been extracted from the
International Register of Potentially Toxic Chemicals (IRPTC) legal
file and other United Nations sources. A full reference to the
original national document from which the information was extracted can
be obtained from IRPTC.
The reader should be aware that regulatory decisions about chemicals
taken in a certain country can only be fully understood in the
framework of the legislation of that country. Furthermore, the
regulations and guidelines of all countries are subject to change and
should always be verified with the appropriate regulatory authorities
6.1 Previous evaluations by international bodies
In the WHO recommended classification of pesticides by hazard (WHO,
1992), technical propachlor is classified in Class III, as slightly
hazardous in normal use. WHO has issued a data sheet on propachlor
Neither the FAO/WHO Joint Meeting on Pesticide Residues (JMPR) nor the
International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) have evaluated
6.2 Exposure limit values
Exposure limit values in some countries are given on page 23.
6.3 Specific restrictions
There are some restrictions, limitations, and safety precautions in
some of the countries where propachlor has been registered, e.g.,
Czechoslovakia, the Russian Federation, and the United Kingdom. Always
consult the competent national authorities.
CURRENT REGULATIONS, GUIDELINES, AND STANDARDS
Exposure limit values
Medium Specification organization Exposure Limit Description Value date
AIR Workplace USSR Maximum Allowance Concentration (MAC) 0.5 mg/m3 1977
- ceiling values (CLV)
WATER Ambient USSR Maximum Allowance Concentration (MAC)
- surface 0.01 mg/m 1983
- for fishing 0.00 mg/m 1981
Drinking- Germany Guideline level 0.011 mg/litre 1988
FOOD Residues Germany Maximum residue limit (MRL) 0.1-0.2 mg/litre 1984
USA Acceptable residue limit (ARL) 0.02-3 mg/kg
(Raw agricultural products)
USSR Maximum residue limit (MRL) 0.1-0.3 mg/kg 1983
FOOD Intake USSR Acceptable daily intake (ADI) 0.01 mg/kg 1983
6.4 Labelling, packaging, and transport
The legislation of the European Economic Community requires that
propachlor be labelled as a dangerous substance, using the symbol:
The label must read:
Harmful by inhalation, in contact with skin, and if swallowed,
irritating to eyes; keep out of reach of children; keep away from
food, drink, and animal feed.
6.5 Waste disposal
No information available.
CEC (1987) Legislation on dangerous substances - Classification and
labelling in the European Communities. Vol. 1 & 2. Commission of the
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FAO (1985a) Guidelines for the packaging and storage of pesticides.
Rome, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
FAO (1985b) Guidelines for the disposal of waste pesticides and
pesticide containers on the farm. Rome, Food and Agriculture
Organization of the United Nations.
FAO (1985c) Guidelines on good labelling practice for pesticides. Rome,
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FAO (1986) International code of conduct on the distribution and use of
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Plestina, R (1984) Prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of insecticide
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and/or sale have been banned, withdrawn, severely restricted or not
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